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The Pros and Cons of Menstrual Leave Policies in the Workplace: What Organizations Should Know

Menstrual leave is a policy that allows a person to take paid or unpaid leave from their employment if they are menstruating and are unable to go to work. Menstrual leave is distinct from “sick leave,” which is often mandated by federal law. 

In February, Spain passed a bill allowing individuals with painful periods to take up to three days of menstrual leave a month. Spain is the first European nation (though preceded by several in Asia and Africa) to introduce federally protected menstrual leave, bringing the conversation to the global stage. Seven countries now have some form of menstrual leave policy: Spain, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam and Zambia.

Each policy is distinct. Some policies, like Spain’s, require a doctor’s note to validate the existence of debilitating period pain. Others, like Vietnam, offer financial incentive for female employees not to take menstrual leave. Several countries also require the option of menstrual leave, but do not mandate that the leave be paid.

As more countries and companies pass menstrual leave policies, academics, activists and organizations are debating its merits, creating a controversy over the issue and sparking opinion pieces either singing its praises or condemning it as anti-feminist. 

However, across the many opinion pieces and limited research efforts, there is not sufficient data on menstrual leave to make broad claims of its benefits or drawbacks. Like all policy ideas, good data on the efficacy of menstrual leave is critical for making the case one way or the other.

If you are on the fence about whether menstrual leave is a policy that workplaces need to include in their benefits package, check out some of the arguments for and against it to learn more.

Cases FOR Menstrual Leave Policies

Concerns About Menstrual Leave Policies

  • Menstrual leave policies may reinforce negative attitudes about menstruation by implying that people who menstruate cannot perform effectively at work
  • Menstrual leave policies may increase gender-based discrimination in workplaces
  • There is limited evidence to show that menstrual leave is proportionally taken by the individuals who need it most

Whether organizations decide to offer menstrual leave or implement other strategies for establishing inclusive and supportive workplaces, it is important to recognize and prioritize the significance of menstrual health in the workplace and how it affects employee productivity, success and overall wellness. One simple solution is to provide free period products in employee restrooms, which has been shown to improve employee productivity and reduce absenteeism.

To dive deeper into the pros and cons of menstrual leave policies in the workplace, check out this article written by Jess Strait, Data Systems Manager and Advocacy Specialist at Days for Girls.

To learn more about period positive workplaces, visit periodpositiveworkplace.org.

Days for Girls
Days for Girls is an award-winning global NGO bringing menstrual health, dignity and opportunity to 3+ million girls (and counting!) worldwide.